You are not powerless in the face of H1N1

SASKATOON, Nov. 16 /CNW Telbec/ - In this day and age, with the latest in medical equipment and scientific advances adding both quantity and quality to our lives, it is easy to forget that the simplest actions can provide some of the most important results. In fact, your mother's instructions to "wash up before dinner" should be considered some of the soundest medical advice ever offered.

Handwashing, done correctly and regularly - with soap and warm water for 20 seconds - is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases like H1N1. The fact that a good, thorough scrubbing of the hands can prevent illness is not a new concept - Dr. Ignaz Simmelweis proved that it worked more than 150 years ago. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget the lesson he taught.

The H1N1 influenza virus proves that our world is getting smaller and that preventing the spread of viruses is getting more difficult. While this is obviously of great concern, it is important to remember that it is not just high-profile pandemics such as H1N1 that pose a threat. Common seasonal flu kills 700 to 2500 people every year in Canada.

Influenza and other respiratory infections - which is what H1N1 is - are transmitted from person to person when germs enter the nose or throat. Coughs and sneezes release these germs into the air, where they can be breathed in by others. Germs can also be found on the surfaces we touch, such as doorknobs, and our hands can then transmit them to the respiratory system when we touch our mouth or nose. Therefore, it is critical that these surfaces be kept as clean as possible. It is also critical that everyone get the H1N1 shot to help reduce the spread of this highly contagious virus.

The H1N1 vaccine will not only protect you - it will protect your friends, family, coworkers and everyone else you come in contact with. As a doctor, I can't stress enough the importance of getting this vaccine. It's also safe. There is no credible scientific evidence that proves otherwise. I got one, so should you.

In the six years since SARS took the lives of 44 Canadians and more than 700 people worldwide, health officials around the globe have been working to prepare for the next pandemic. H1N1 is that next pandemic and it has emerged and spread quickly because it is new and people have little or no natural immunity to it.

In Canada, the establishment in 2004 of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has given us a centre of expertise at the federal level that allows for closer interaction between federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments when a pandemic threatens. While media reports have focused on initial hiccups in getting the vaccine out to the public, it is important to note that this is the largest immunization campaign in Canadian history. Plans are in place and steps are being taken to ensure that all Canadians can get the flu vaccine.

Our response to pandemics has changed a lot thanks to the power of the Internet. Physicians are connected as never before, and can immediately get the latest updates and clinical information they need to ensure that you get the care you need. This is a key concern at the CMA as we, through collaboration with the PHAC and others, strive to ensure that clinical information spreads faster than viruses such as H1N1 that threaten us. We are working to ensure that your physician always has access to the latest and best clinical information.

In the meantime, remember: get vaccinated, cover coughs, wash your hands and stay home when you're sick.

    Dr. Anne Doig
    Canadian Medical Association

/NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available at Images are free to accredited members of the media/

SOURCE Canadian Medical Association

For further information: For further information: Lucie Boileau, Manager, Media Relations, Canadian Medical Association, (613) 731-8610, (800) 663-7336 ext. 1266, Cell.: (613) 447-0866,, 1867 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa, ON, K1G 5W8

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